I just had a heated discussion over the phone with one of my former nun friends. We each left the community during the massive exodus of the 1960’s and ‘70s. Unlike me, she has remained a practicing Catholic until recently. Over the yeasr we have shared a growing disappointment and disgust toward the stuanch patriarchal attitude of the boys in Rome toward women. I left the convent the day I left the convent, but my friend has persisted until now. The fundamentalist, anti-women attitude of her new young pastor has finally pushed her away.
I told her about the book I’d recently discovered: Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns, by Kenneth Briggs. We were reminded of how much our services had been taken for granted and how little we nun has been paid for our dedicated work in the Parochial schools. The amount were were given did not even constitute a living wage. For years, my friend faithfully served as both principal and full time classroom teacher with a salary of $75 a month. An entire staff of nuns received an average total of $200 a month. As a result, the schools flourished and the nuns were left with paltry retirement funds for our future.
At the time, money mattered little to us. We never dealt with money. Financial matters were handled between parish priests and the Motherhouse Superior and her staff. Each mission received a budgeted amount for its basic household needs directly from the Motherhouse. Never allowed to question anything at all, we nuns were expected to put our trust in God. It wasn’t until we were rudely awakened in the aftermath of Vatican II when we were forced to deal with the world of finances again. The day would come when would see how shortchanged we would be for retirement. Whether we remained in the convent or not, we would be forced to live deal with the consequences of our current/former Vow of Poverty.